EL CENTRO — Although some living near Carlos Aguilar Park on El Centro’s north side had not heard it is about to get a major facelift, a recent visit to the neighborhood found the news enthusiastically received.
The city council recently approved $2.3 million in upgrades for the park on Pico Avenue west of Imperial Avenue. Work will include two new soccer fields, a new snack bar and restrooms, redone sidewalks and a repaved alley. Also included are a new parking lot, renovated playground equipment, new walking trail, new shaded picnic areas and a perimeter fence.
The work is expected to be completed in early 2020, city officials reported.
Park neighbor Armando Villasenor, owner of Mando’s Stereo, recalled when he first opened his business there were no toys for his two children so they were often at Aguilar Park
“Our second home,” he called it. “But it wasn’t set up as a park then. They didn’t have any shade and the bathrooms were often trashed. But then they got some playground equipment. Better. A lot of people like to jog or walk around the park and just do exercise.”
While Villasenor said some do not feel safe in the park, he predicted the upgrades will have a positive impact.
“The improvements will be a very positive investment for the community and the neighbors are going to appreciate it,” he said.
Amenities May Attract More Use
Kenneth Ansley, a resident of the nearby Country Club Apartments on Villa Avenue, noted he likes to bring his two sons Kenneth Jr., 2, and Kenya, 3, to play in the park.
“They just like to run around and go crazy,” he said. “I’d definitely use the park more now that they’ll upgrade the bathrooms and other facilities. Why would you want to go all the way down to Walmart (the closest restroom) or go all the way back to the house?”
Victor Palacio, a retiree and resident of neighboring Posada Del Sol apartments, admitted he was not too concerned about the park but noted he does see a lot of elderly walk there.
“Whatever improvements they put in for the residents is good,” he said. “I go to see a game or two of the city league softball games. At night, the lights go on automatically. And the parents bring sodas and water and watch out for their kids who play because they’re just eight or 10 years old.”
Luis Tony, an Imperial Valley College student majoring in criminology, stopped by the park to relax with friends on Nov. 22. He said he occasionally likes to play soccer there.
“It’ll keep the kids out of trouble,” he said. “And it’s a place you can make friends so it’s a good idea to make the park improvements.”
Another IVC student and Posada del Sol resident, Edgar Lopez, explained he likes the park for running and soccer.
“Yeah, it can be better,” he said. “More restrooms, a baseball field and bike racks.”
Devon Apodaca, executive director of the Imperial County Humane Society that is adjacent to the park, noted the improvements would make the area a lot nicer. He suggested if the city were open to a proposal the Human Society could hold events at the park for pet adoption, microchipping and spaying/neutering.
“You know what? Definitely having a (better) park in front of the shelter would make the space a little cleaner, safer and attract friendlier community members. Having a nicer park can get a lot more of the community involved and make the area much more inviting,” Apodaca said.
Park Problems Described
In a presentation prepared for the city council, Adriana Nava, city Community Services director, explained Aguilar Park has become dilapidated after 30 years of extended use and a lack of significant improvements.
New field lighting was installed in 2014 to serve the existing soccer field and to illuminate a future soccer filed on the south end that is now a large dirt area.
“The existing restrooms are severely run down and not compliant” for the disabled, she informed the council.
The playground areas and adjacent picnic areas are full of graffiti and in a state of disrepair. Also, an alley to the west of the park that leads to additional parking is in need of reconstruction.
This story is featured in the Nov 27, 2019 e-Edition.